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'China's defence build-up worrying'

world Updated: Mar 04, 2011 16:57 IST

Japanese foreign minsiter Seiji Maehara on Friday expressed fresh concern over China's ballooning defence spending, after Beijing announced a double-digit increase in its secretive military budget.

The Chinese defence budget will rise 12.7% in 2011 to 601.1 billion yuan ($91.7 billion), according to Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the national parliament and a former foreign minister.

Li said the figure represented six% of the total national budget in the world's second-largest economy.

"It is an extremely high ratio for defence spending," Maehara told reporters during a press conference.

"We cannot help worrying about what all the money is used for."

"We have great concerns," he said, adding Tokyo will "continue encouraging China to increase transparency."

Tokyo has repeatedly questioned Beijing's military intentions.

In December Japan called China's military rise a source of international "concern" in its 10-year defence guidelines, following Beijing's increased assertiveness in territorial disputes in the East China and South China seas.

The new figure for China's defence budget represents a return to double-digit increases in military spending, which have alarmed Japan, as well as the United States, Australia and several of China's Asian neighbours.

That multi-year trend had been broken in 2010 when the budget rose 7.5%. In any case, many analysts say the announced budget is far lower than actual spending.

The figures were contained in a budgetary report submitted for approval to the Communist Party-controlled National People's Congress, which opens its annual 10-day session on Saturday, the Chinese spokesman said.

He insisted the annual outlay of more than 90 billion dollars posed no external threat, despite concern worldwide.